Christian Neighbors offers help to veterans

Ryan Lewis

U.S. military veterans and their family members who find themselves at Christian Neighbors sometimes are looking for answers related to their service.
Richard Lubic, the agency’s veterans’ services assistant, is on hand to help clients find those answers.
“I consider my position as a facilitator,” Lubic said. “If someone comes in with a problem, I can tell them where to go to get their problem solved.”
He said he often provides simple help, such as helping veterans fill out their DD 214, a form issued when service men and women retire or are otherwise discharged from active duty.
“I have those forms; I can help them fill that out and send them in,” he said. “But if they come in to apply for a military pension, that’s not me. I send them to the Veterans Service Office in Allegan.”
Christian Neighbors in Plainwell provides a variety of services, including running a food pantry and financial mentoring. For those in the Martin, Otsego and Plainwell school districts, the nonprofit provides a variety of financial assistance.

Christian Neighbors executive director Terri Shaler said, “We care very much about our veterans. We help veterans throughout the year with food and financial assistance. But often they had special needs we weren’t able to answer.”
So, shortly after they opened their new office in 2009, they brought Lubic on board.
Lubic hosts walk-in hours at the agency’s office, 282 12th St., Plainwell, on the first and third Tuesdays of each month from 10 a.m. to noon; no appointment is necessary.
Lubic will be among the many veterans in Allegan County reflecting on their service this weekend as well as that of others.
He joined the Marines at age 17 in 1953 and served four years active duty followed by a year of active reserves and three years on standby reserve. During that time, he spent six months in Korea in 1955 and eight months in Japan.
In 1963, he joined the Army and went to flight school. He found himself back in Korea while on active duty for four-and-a-half years, this time flying. From July 1966 to July 1967, he flew helicopters in Vietnam; he recently attended a reunion with others from 281st Assault Helicopter Company, the Army’s first special operations helicopter company.
“Then I was on standby reserve, and then off for a while. I joined the reserves again from 1984 to 1991,” Lubic said. “From ’91 to ’95, I served in the West Virginia National Guard as a pilot.”
He retired as a chief warrant officer (CW-4) with 26 years of service.
Locally, he’s been helping veterans for years as well.
He served more than five years with the Veterans Service Office in Allegan.
“I was on the Michigan Trust Fund Committee and on the Soldiers and Sailors Committee in Allegan,” he said. “This is where I learned how the different programs worked.”
He’s quick to point out that he is not a trained service officer.
“But, if a veteran comes in wanting to apply for VA medical benefits, I help make sure they know where to go, how long it’s going to take and what they can expect,” Lubic said.
Shaler said, “It was a great fit. We’re grateful he’s with us.
She noted he can help people know what information to bring to their first appointment with veterans services in Allegan.
“There have also been times we encounter homeless vets,” she said. “He’s able to help get them quick assistance, get them housing and help us extend utility assistance above and beyond what we normally can provide.
“Anyone from anywhere can come visit him. If there’s a need, he is here.”
Lubic recalled helping one veteran from Plainwell who’d been kicked out of his daughter’s home.
“He was homeless, no money, unable to work,” he said. After finding some initial help, he was eventually connected to a program in Lansing that provided a space for him to live and train for a new job—“Everything he needed to get back on his feet.”
Lubic said he liked his position at Christian Neighbors.
“I enjoy meeting people,” he said, adding that, as a Vietnam veteran, he particularly liked getting word out to veterans to know they can and should apply for help treating problems brough on by Agent Orange, an herbicide sprayed during the war.
He said those at the county office were great and had really provided a lot of assistance to veterans over the years.
“The county’s great about making sure vets submit forms that are complete, because then they get their benefits more quickly,” Lubic said.
Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@ or (269) 673-5534.


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